January 26, 2023

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President Biden to call on Congress in effort to avert rail strike

President Biden Speaks On The Railway Labor Agreement In The Rose Garden

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images News

President Biden implored Congress to intervene in stalled negotiations between rail unions and operators to prevent a strike.

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” he said in a statement. “As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

Biden’s involvement in the negotiations had been rumored ahead of the official statement.

The new development coincides with a letter sent to lawmakers by a coalition of more than 400 business groups on Monday. The coalition that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and National Retail Federation urged a short-term reprieve from a strike for negotiations to continue.

“A potential rail strike only adds to the headwinds facing the U.S. economy,” the letter reads. “A rail stoppage would immediately lead to supply shortages and higher prices.”

It adds that precedent exists for the intervention, as Congress has intervened 18 times since 1926 in labor negotiations that threatened to adversely impact interstate commerce.

“While a voluntary agreement with the four holdout unions is the best outcome, the risks to America’s economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable,” the group declared. “Therefore, absent a voluntary agreement, we call on you to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow.”

On Monday evening, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House of Representatives will consider legislation in accordance with the President’s urging.

“We must recognize that railroads have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers,” she commented. “We are reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process for the Tentative Agreement — but we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt.”

Related Tickers: Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), Canadian National Railway (CNI), CSX Corp. (NASDAQ:CSX), Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B), and Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC).